As a member of the Unite Rochester blog, I know well of the “Two Rochesters.” By that, I think of our too segregated community in which different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups too often live separated lives. At least for one night, however, last Saturday on July 4th in Meridian Centre Park in Brighton, I had a vision of another Rochester.
Over the last few years, the fireworks display at Meridian is arguably the most popular in Monroe County, drawing crowds between 10 – 15 thousand. While many people are from Brighton, the evening attracts from all over. Meridian is relatively centrally located, parking is ample, traffic flow is good, and the SkyCoasters are a hit. (Although, old time Brightonians do wax nostalgic for the days when the 4th was held at the High School where — because you were that close to the pyrotechnics — ash sometimes fell from the sky onto your hair!)
Walking around the Park, I happily encountered diversity of all stripes. People from all backgrounds, mingling, playing carnival games, drinking a little, and dancing next to the American flag as the SkyCoasters entertained. I saw two students I know from the Frederick Douglass schools, always surprised that teachers exist outside the classroom.
This week, I had the chance to talk with Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle. As we reflected upon the 4that Meridian, we both agreed the event mirrored how, over the last decade or so, Brighton is increasingly becoming the most diverse town in Monroe County. And that’s a good thing.
As Moehle rightly points out, “diversity” can be hard to define. Demographically, Henrietta and Gates have a higher percentage of African-American residents. At the same time, Brighton is home to many from the Indian, Asian, West African, Muslim (there is a mosque on Westfall Road) and LGBT communities. And, historically, Brighton has had a large Jewish population, including many immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Go watch soccer games any evening at Buckland Park and you will hear a cacophony of languages.
Perhaps as importantly, Brighton is diverse socio-economically. Starter and smaller homes can be found in most neighborhoods. Multi-family apartments line Westfall Road, Elmwood and parts of Monroe Avenues. As Moehle say, Brighton is not a town of mansions, nor wants to be.
Fundamentally, Moehle — and myself — see Brighton as a positive example of how diversity works and can generate more diversity. As with every town, Brighton has its challenges, including poverty. Brighton food pantries serve many in distress.
But if the “Two Rochesters” are a problem, the “new” Brighton can be part of the solution.